Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?

I stole the name for this piece from the WW-I song by the same title, written in 1918 by Young & Lewis with music by Walter Donaldson.  I woke up with it running through my primate brain around 4:30am and couldn’t shut it off, so I made a pot of coffee and sat down to scratch out the blog that was several days overdue.  

Last weekend I attended the Creatures,Crime, and Creativity Conference—C3 for short. As it turned out, it was my intro into the Big Leagues, if you’ll forgive the baseball parlance. I was like the farm kid with the ratty ‘ol baseball glove that hitched a ride to New York with hopes of trying out for The Yankees. There’s a Cinderella parallel in here somewhere too, but I think I’ve beaten the analogy horse long enough.   

The fact is, all three comparisons apply. I can’t remember ever being at an event where several of the top names in the business regarded me as much a peer as a fan. Can you imagine how that feels to a kid from the Minors? Ok, I slipped back into analogy mode for a moment, but it’s no less true. I had drinks with Jeffery Deaver and JohnGilstrap and Brian Keene, traded anecdotes and experiences and opinions, compared notes on writing and the writing business, laughed and joked and … God … just had the time of my life. They are all I aspire to be, and that would be enough for any rookie. But they were as down-to-Earth as you and I, just regular folk, like anyone you might meet on the street, or a restaurant, or a police station. OK … forget the police station, but you get my drift. From where I stood, it was Disney World.

Originally I thought to attend the conference by myself, but later, I decided that Maggie could use a break. Writing, as you know, is a solitary activity, and she deals with it—and me—on a daily basis. Most evenings, we see each other when we get home from work, and then for a bit at dinner. After that, not so much until she comes in to kiss me goodnight, usually around 7:30-8:00. So I brought her with me. She thought she’d go shopping, or hit the pool, or work out in the gym while I attended all those boring writer’s panel and classes and things. Then she’d join me for lunch and dinner, attend the signings, and we’d partake of an adult beverage or two after the day’s work was done. So I lugged her 90-lb suitcase to Hunt Valley along with my 5-lb overnight bag, all the while wondering exactly what kind of rocks she had packed.  

“Women never know what to expect,” she explained, “so we pack everything.” 

OK, I get being prepared … but rocks? Maybe there a Stoning Panel I didn’t know about. 

I had forgotten that I purchased an E-ticket for her and she could attend everything for the entire weekend, so she decided to sit in on the first of the two panels I was invited to. After that, the shopping and the pool were no longer in her future. She palled around with me and enjoyed the panels as much as I. She did, however, go to the gym. It’s like church to her. And brother, it pays off. I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful wife, and when she walked into dinner Saturday night, dressed to the nines, I remembered just how lucky I was. But she was so much more than just a pretty face. She blended—with me, with the other wives, the other fans, the big-league authors; everyone. She made me look good … or as could as she could considering what she had to work with. Maggie did for me what Joy Gilstrap did for John. Behind every successful man….  

How can I possibly fail? 

Before we knew it, The Ball was over. We had seen Paree' and the time had come to say goodbye. On the way home we chatted about the thoughtful things and the interesting things and the funny things we experienced. We rehashed the fun we had with the people we knew and the new friends we made, and at home we sorted through our goody bags like kids on Halloween night; the pamphlets and biz cards and bookmarks, magazines and programs and books signed by their authors—all except for Allison Leotta. For me she signed a bookmark since her books were all sold out.  

I have photos with writers I never expected to meet, but more than that, I feel I’ve developed a rapport with them as well, even if it is only on Facebook. But the cherry on the top of my Sundae is promised blurbs from Gilstrap and Deaver. Being a rookie and unfamiliar in the ways of literary etiquette and protocol, I had the gall and bad manners to ask them if they might find some time to read my one-and-only novel and provide a blurb for the back cover. They agreed, on the condition it would have to wait until after their deadlines. For a new writer like me, that’s tantamount to a kid waiting for Christmas. Just a few words from them could launch a career. They are as gracious as they are talented. 

When Monday morning rolled around, I realized what it must have been like for Cinderella. The fancy clothes were gone, the carriage was a pumpkin once more, and the daily toil awaited. I was once again Joe Average, and I found it wanting. Maggie said it was as if we had been a part of something special for a short while, and it felt a little weird dropping back into her normal routine.  

Indeed … part of something special. 

See you next year.


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